Latrobe softball wins big section showdown with Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, April 21, 2022 | 9:29 PM

Latrobe earned a section softball split with first-place Thomas Jefferson on the strength of three factors: 1. Sound pitching, 2. Crisp defense and 3. Power hitting.

That trio can win a lot of games.

Or, maybe it was three other things that powered the Wildcats.

“I always say to be successful as a team you need an engine, a heart and a caboose,” Latrobe coach Bob Kovalcin said. “If you can put those together … the train is coming down the tracks.”

That works, too.

However the Wildcats look at it, they earned a key Section 1-5A victory, 8-1 over the visiting Jaguars on Thursday at Graham-Sobota Field.

Sophomore Kayla Williams pitched a five-hit complete game behind a near-perfect defense, and juniors Josie Straigis and Hayden Kraynick homered for the Wildcats (3-3, 3-2), who have won three of their last four games.

The loss was the first in section for Thomas Jefferson (6-5, 5-1), which beat Latrobe, 14-8, earlier in the season.

Junior leadoff hitter Sydney DeGram was 3 for 3 with a double and a walk, and junior Lauren Weatherton added two RBIs for Latrobe, which played without senior Jenna Tallman, who was out with an unspecified illness.

Kovalcin said he hopes to have her back soon.

“We played for Jenna,” Kovalcin said. “We played as a team today. We did everything we had worked on the last three days. No walks, no errors … we’re back in the saddle.”

After having three of its last four scheduled games postponed because of inclement weather that can’t make up its mind, the Wildcats were just glad to get outside.

“Being on our home field, it was a great atmosphere,” said Straigis, the Wildcats’ cleanup hitter who also homered against Thomas Jefferson in the first game. “We’re getting our stuff together.”

Straigis got the offense started with an RBI single with the bases loaded in the first. She made it 3-0 with a two-run blast over the left-field fence in the third.

Williams set down the first 10 batters she faced before allowing a bloop single to right by senior Emma Stock that dropped into a closing circle of outfielders.

Senior Graci Fairman followed with a rare, broken-bat single: “I loved that bat,” she said as she rounded first.

Sophomore catcher Taylor Karpac then singled to left with two outs to make it 3-1.

After a pair of walks to open the fifth, Kraynick came up for Latrobe and delivered a drive to right that barely cleared the temporary fencing for a three-run shot and a 6-1 advantage.

“It was nice to see her hit that one over because earlier in the year she hit one here that bounced off the top of the fence and came back in,” Kovalcin said. “I first thought she had a double.”

The Jaguars threatened again in the sixth, putting runners at first and second with one out. But Williams worked out of the pinch with a groundout and a flyout.

Latrobe added two more scores in the home half of the sixth. Junior catcher Emma Blair was hit by a pitch, and senior Bailey Watson walked. It was 8-1 after Weatherton ripped a two-run single.

Williams worked a 1-2-3 seventh to end it.

“Kayla was focused and mentally tough,” Kovalcin said. “She hit her spots. There were a lot of third strikes looking.”

Stock and Fairman each had two hits for Thomas Jefferson, which had beaten Penn-Trafford, 3-2, and clubbed Albert Gallatin and Gateway by scores of 20-5 and 15-0.

The Jaguars had won six of seven.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at

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